Leadership & Staff

Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director

Dawn Blagrove is an attorney and a proud graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) and North Carolina Central School of Law. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in political science with a minor in Secondary Education, cum laude from FAMU, where she also obtained a Master’s Degree, magna cum laude, in Applied Social Science. While in law school, Blagrove worked at Williams Mullen Law Firm, formerly Maupin Taylor, Wake County Public Defender’s Office, and North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services.

After graduating law school, Blagrove worked for eight years as a post-conviction staff attorney with North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, where she co-managed the jail credit team of five paralegals dedicated to jail credit issues. During this time, Blagrove evaluated and prioritized requests for criminal post-conviction representation from inmates incarcerated in North Carolina’s Department of Correction. On their behalf, she litigated motions for appropriate relief and petitions for writs of habeas corpus in N.C. trial and appellate courts. Blagrove also litigated federal habeas actions in U.S. District Courts in N.C.; the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA.; and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Today, Blagrove’s experience as a post-conviction attorney, combined with her undergraduate training in Secondary Education, fuel her passion for educating youth and the public about challenges in the criminal justice system as Executive Director of the Carolina Justice Policy Center.

Blagrove also serves as an adjunct professor for the Criminal Justice Department of Fayetteville Technical Community College. She has taught courses that include Interviews and Interrogations and Introduction to Criminal Justice. She is also a proud co-sponsor of the Capital City Chapter of Jack and Jill of America.

Elizabeth Simpson, Associate Director

Elizabeth Simpson is an attorney and graduate of the University of Virginia and Yale Law School. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political and Social Thought from U.Va. in 2003. She graduated from Yale Law School in 2009, winning the C. LaRue Munson Prize for excellence in the preparation and presentation of legal cases in a clinical program.

After graduating law school, Simpson clerked for the Honorable Denny Chin on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She moved to Durham, North Carolina in 2010 after being awarded the Arthur Liman Public Interest Fellowship to do immigration work at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. She worked in the model of community lawyering, working with community organizers to support litigation with media and pressure tactics. Subsequently, she worked as a civil rights attorney with North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, where she litigated in in defense of prisoners’ rights to safe and humane conditions of confinement, winning injunctions and monetary relief for her clients. She appeared in four federal jury trials, represented prisoners in dozens of successful mediations, and argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Most recently, she worked at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, defending and supporting immigrant activists in a variety of forums. She has served as an adjunct professor in the UNC Law School Civil Clinic.

Before, during, and after law school, Simpson has supported grassroots community organizing with her skills in fundraising and backend logistics. She is connected to the Durham Solidarity Center’s Freedom Fighter Bail Fund, which supported the activists who took down the Confederate monument in Durham, North Carolina in 2017. She was arrested in the Moral Monday protests in 2015, and subsequently represented her fellow arrestees in state criminal court on trespassing charges. She is Board Treasurer for the Southern Vision Alliance, a grassroots intermediary that supports leadership development and base-building work for social, racial, and environmental justice, along with gender equity, LGBTQ rights, and education justice in the U.S. South. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and two children.

Sydney Roberts, Community Education Intern

Sydney Roberts is a senior at Duke University where she focuses on normative political theory and carceral studies. She was born in rural Oregon and has always been interested in criminal-legal reform, economic justice, and community organizing. Sydney works primarily on the development and design of educational materials for the Carolina Justice Policy Center. Outside of CJPC, she volunteers with the Durham Literacy Center, serves as chair of The Chronicle’s Editorial Board, and is involved with labor organizing at Duke and in Durham.